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Breastfeeding is a unique and amazing experience that a mom shares with her young baby. For first time moms, there is an infinite amount of questions during pregnancy and right after birth. I remember when I was almost due, trying to figure out how breastfeeding worked. Does it come out in one stream? What will it feel like? One question that remained in my mind right up until it was time to latch my baby for the first time was, “will I be able to breastfeed with my flat nipples?”
Shortly after I gave birth, the hospital’s lactation consultant came in, and I voiced and showed her my concern. I learned that not only are my nipples flat, but they are also inverted. This means the nipple itself turns in, instead of a typical nipple that pokes out. My situation wasn’t unique, and the lactation consultant assured me that it was indeed possible for me to breastfeed.
It’s Possible to Breastfeed with Flat or Inverted Nipples!
Why? Well, unbeknownst to me at the time, as a first-time mom, babies don’t latch solely on the nipple. In fact, a proper latch is when the infant takes a good portion of the breast into their mouth, including the areola. As long as your baby gets a good grip here, flat nipples shouldn’t be a hindrance when breastfeeding.
Although flat or inverted nipples don’t prevent you from breastfeeding, they can add difficulty to an already anxiety-inducing task for a new mother. Pain, discomfort, and new sensations can be overwhelming for a newly breastfeeding mother. Thankfully, there is a way to relieve a good amount of the initial discomfort that you experience the first few times you’re breastfeeding a new baby.
2 Methods That Will Help You Breastfeed with Flat Nipples
The Nipple Shield
The nipple shield. A godsend in the form of a small, silicone, transparent device! While a new mom is adjusting to the demanding feeding routine of a newborn, a nipple shield is an excellent choice. It will provide a safe and comfortable barrier between baby’s gums and your nipple. For those with flat or inverted nipples, a nipple shield also helps “train” your breast. It provides a mock nipple for your baby to suckle, which also doubles as a mold to help draw out your nipple.
A Couple of Drawbacks
As great and miraculous as a nipple shield sounds, there are some drawbacks to using it. First and foremost, it’s easy for both mom and baby to become dependent on it. This happened to me; like clockwork, when feeding time came around, my nipple shield was right at my side. It took me almost three months before my son and I were completely weaned off of the shield. Another downside to using a nipple shield is the amount of maintenance it needs. Like any bottle, you will need to clean the nipple shield properly after every use. This will help to avoid milk blockages or worse, mold. Nonetheless, these drawbacks aside, a nipple shield is a great resource to help a mother with flat or inverted nipples adjust to the new routine and experience of breastfeeding. Check out our article all about the pros and cons of nipple shields here.
Using a Breast Pump
To reiterate, it’s not impossible to breastfeed with flat or inverted nipples. If a nipple shield isn’t for you, there are other ways to help draw out your nipples. You don’t need to wait until your nipples are drawn out to begin breastfeeding! However, to ease discomfort from breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipples, you can take it upon yourself to speed up the process of drawing them out. One method that other mothers and I have found helpful is to use a breast pump. If you don’t have one already, be sure to check with your insurance as many times you can get a pump for free!
Not only can you use the breast pump to store up milk for another time, but using it can help draw out flat or inverted nipples. To avoid messing with my milk production, I would pump only after directly breastfeeding my baby. This helped accelerate the process of drawing out my nipples, and as a bonus, my milk production went up (a win-win), since my body thought that my son was nursing more.
Toughing it Out to Breastfeed with Flat Nipples
If you’re willing to stick it out without the methods above, then your little one will need to properly latch during feedings. Here is a method to ensure they are latching properly. With clean hands, place your thumb at the top of your breast. Place your four other fingers under, making a “C” shape with your hands. Gently press to widen your breast and latch your baby accordingly. By doing this, it makes it much easier for baby to latch on to flat or inverted nipples.
For any new breastfeeding mother, and even a seasoned mom who’s having a different experience this time around, I strongly suggest meeting with a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are amazing resources that are available to answer any breastfeeding-related questions. Trust me; there’s nothing they haven’t heard. Lactation consultants are relatively easy to find, and your pediatrician, hospital, or local health department should be able to refer a few.
Breastfeeding is a learning experience for both baby, and a new mom and patience is key. If you’re apprehensive about breastfeeding due to flat or inverted nipples, don’t despair, it is possible! Whether using a nipple shield, breast pump, or toughing it out, remember to enjoy this beautiful bonding experience!
Breastfeeding can be tough. If you are looking for some mamas to go to for advice, head to our Rookie Moms Facebook Group!
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